Sometimes seeing the same therapist for long periods of time can begin to feel unhelpful, stale, or create feelings of being stuck despite having a good working relationship with your therapist. This can especially be true if you are still wrestling with the same issues and not noticing any movement toward your goals. If this situation sounds familiar to you, there may be some ways to improve your therapy experience without feeling a need to change clinicians or drop out of therapy all together. Communicating about your wants and needs to your therapist is one of the keys to changing this pattern.
Today, having a therapist is as routine as having a doctor or dentist. Once you find the right person who you connect with, it is hard to give them up and feel like you need to rehash your history all over again with somebody new, not to mention feeling a sense of loyalty to your clinician. It has been well founded that the most important variable in effective therapy is the therapeutic relationship. Instead of feeling stuck in your therapy and risking finding someone else who you may not connect as well with, consider the following factors that can improve your therapy experience.
First, it is most important to be able to voice your concerns directly to your therapist. After all, not only are you paying them to listen to you, but you have a trusted connection with the person in the room who you can practice asserting your needs with. Unlike our family members and friends, a healthy therapist will attune to your feelings supportively. I like to think of therapy as a “learning lab” to take interpersonal risks that can then be applied to your outside relationships. For example, suppose you are feeling bored in your romantic relationship, but have a lot of fear that if you talk about it then the person will get mad or break up with you. In the context of effective therapy, taking the same interpersonal risk along with working through the same beliefs and feelings, can lead to a corrective emotional experience that can help increase your confidence to do the same work outside of therapy.
Second, make sure to communicate what you are looking for from your therapist which will also help improve your therapy experience. For instance, when clients first enter therapy, some may be looking for a certain level of support or therapeutic approach. As they begin to feel better about the situations that brought them in, they may desire a different therapeutic style that may not always be clear to the therapist themselves. For example, if you have been working with a therapist who tends to lean toward cognitive interventions (i.e. helping you dispute distorted beliefs and behaviors), you may be feeling stuck emotionally and may benefit from a more experiential therapeutic approach (i.e. one that focuses more on emotions and experiences in the therapeutic space).
Third, after having voiced and communicated your concerns to your therapist, be open-minded to trying new behaviors or taking on a changed mindset that may help you be able to see your problems from a different perspective. This could include sincerely applying new actions or thought processes that are suggested by your therapist or allowing your therapist to help stretch your comfort level within the session by being more open to new therapeutic techniques. An example of this could be your therapist suggesting a more emotionally vulnerable exercise such as a role play while in session. Instead of resisting it because of fearing you may look silly or cry, you can go with it as an “experiment” to see if it may be helpful.
A fourth factor to consider in attempting to improve your therapy experience, is to take an honest look at yourself and your motivation to change. It is not uncommon when a client is feeling stuck to “blame” the therapist. Like any other relationship, you own at least half of the responsibility in staying stuck or moving forward. Consider the following questions as an exercise to help you gain more clarity about your own side of the change process:
- How are you sincerely practicing and applying suggested behaviors or thought processes outside of the therapeutic sessions?
- When you are coming to therapy, do you prepare what you want to talk about or work on or do you allow the conversation to divert to other subjects that are not as important or uncomfortable to talk about?
- How defensive or resistant are you to trying new things and is this being communicated to your therapist openly? Although this is a normal part of the therapy and change process, it is important to be open about how ready you are to make movement with the issues you are presenting.
- How honest are you being with your therapist about your issues and true feelings? Does your therapist know the whole story or just parts of it?
- What behaviors are you exhibiting in the therapy room that are similar in how you act with other people in your life and is this being talked about with your therapist?
One of the greatest gifts of having a trusted therapist is to allow your true, vulnerable side of yourself to come out and not stay stuck. How you build a relationship with your therapist, how you respond to ideas that are being shared, and the way you communicate feelings and other aspects of your inner self, are all reflective of how you are or could be in your own private relationships which makes coming to therapy and sticking with it a valuable tool! So in conclusion, one of the best ways to improve your therapy experience is to be open, honest, and willing to also improve yourself.
If you would like to talk to a therapist about this issue and more, please contact us at www.therapyinphiladelphia.com/contact.